The Blog's Mission

Wikipedia defines a book review as: “a form of literary criticism in which a book is analyzed based on content, style, and merit. A book review can be a primary source opinion piece, summary review or scholarly review”. My mission is to provide the reader with my thoughts on the author’s work whether it’s good, bad, or ugly. I read all genres of books, so some of the reviews may be on hard to find books, or currently out of print. All of my reviews will also be available on I will write a comment section at the end of each review to provide the reader with some little known facts about the author, or the subject of the book. Every now and then, I’ve had an author email me concerning the reading and reviewing of their work. If an author wants to contact me, you can email me at I would be glad to read, review and comment on any nascent, or experienced writer’s books. If warranted, I like to add a little comedy to accent my reviews, so enjoy!
Thanks, Rick O.

Saturday, April 29, 2017


Cormac McCarthy’s third volume of The Border Trilogy offers the reader more about the cowboy life versus the first two novels, All the Pretty Horses (see my review of 4/2/2013) and The Crossing (see my review of 10/3/2013). Don’t get me wrong, this novel is still very dark, but I did like the ranch exploits of our two protagonist before the heavy duty grief set in. This novel brings back the expert horse trainer, John Grady Cole, the main character in All the Pretty Horses and Billy Parham, the excellent tracker and the principle character in The Crossing. They are both working as ranch hands on a ranch shortly to be taken over by the U.S. Army in New Mexico. With cattle ranching on the downside and a possible sale of the ranch, it’s fairly depressing for the ranch hands and owner, Mac McGovern. Cormac continues his previous style of using numerous Spanish sentences, phrases and words, such as, alcahuete (pimp). Yes my friends, once again a woman, this time a whore, is going to bring in the dark clouds. If you remember John Grady fell in love with a rancher’s beautiful daughter, Alejandra in All the Pretty Horses. This time he falls in love with a young whore he meets in Juarez, Mexico. Also continued is Cormac’s method of no quotation marks, which works surprisingly well.

The guts of the story centers around John Cole falling in love with a whore, Magdalena, in Juarez. The owner of the brothel, Eduardo, and his main pimp, Tiburcio, don’t like John. John wants to buy Magdalena from Eduardo, bring her across the border and marry her, but has no chance with Eduardo disliking him. John Cole enlist the aid of Billy Parham. He tells Billy that he wants him to go to the brothel and buy the girl for him since Eduardo doesn’t know him. Billy says, “Let me see if I got this straight. You want me to go to a whorehouse in Juarez mexico and buy this whore cash money and bring her back across the river to the ranch. Is that about the size of it?” (I’m using quotation marks that were not in the novel). John Grady nodded. “Shit”, said Billy. “Smile or somethin, will you? Goddamn. Tell me you aint gone completely crazy.” “I aint gone completely crazy” “The hell you aint.” “I’m in love with her, Billy.” (by the way, some of the previous words are not typos). Billy goes to Juarez to meet with Eduardo. “Eduardo was sitting at his desk smoking black cigars...How may I help you?” “I got a business proposition for you”, Billy said. “What I wanted”, said Billy, “was to buy one of these girls.” “You believe these girls are here against their will?” (this character, Eduardo was very scary) “Tell me this”, he said. “All right.” "Are you the principal or agent?” Obviously Eduardo knows that Billy is here representing John Cole, and we find out later that Eduardo is also in love with Magdalena and would rather slit her throat then let her go.

Billy gets back to the ranch very late and goes into the ranch kitchen for a cup of coffee. John is there waiting for him. John says, “Did you offer him money?” “Oh we had a pretty good visit, take it all around.” “What did he say?” “He said she didn’t want to leave there.” “Well that’s a lie.” “Well that may be. But he says she aint leavin.” “Well she is.” “He leaned forward and began to count off (for John) on the fingers of the hand that held the cigarette: She aint American. She aint a citizen. She dont speak english. She works in a whorehouse. No, hear me out. And last but not least-he sat holding his thumb-there’s a son of a bitch owns her outright that I guarangoddamntee will kill you graveyard dead if you mess with him. Son, aint there no girls on this side of the damn river?” “Not like Her.” Okay, this is where I stop my review and the dark clouds begin to move in. No modern author can write with Cormack McCarthy’s nerve-racking technique. If you want proof of that see two movies that were adapted from his novels, The Road and No Country for Old Men. This was a great novel, and I’m glad that I finally finished The Border Trilogy.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: This was the novel that I read on the jet to Hawaii. There is no way that I can fall asleep on a jet, so I always bring two books with me. The novel that I read from Hawaii back to New Jersey was Dumb Witness (see my review of 4/28/2017).  

Friday, April 28, 2017


Eh bien, it’s been almost four years since I last reviewed a Hercule Poirot mystery...and I wasn’t disappointed. This is my sixth review of an Agatha Christie Hercule Poirot novel. I absolutely love reading the adventures of the somewhat rotund, short, Belgian, mustachioed detective. Poirot never uses muscle (does he have any?) to apprehend the guilty person. He tells Captain Arthur Hastings (the narrator of this novel) what a detective is after Hastings accuses Poirot of being very noticeable, “That is because you have the mistaken idea implanted in your head that a detective is necessarily a man who puts on a false beard and hides behind a pillar! The false beard, it is vieux jeu, and shadowing is only done by the lowest branch of my profession. The Hercule Poirots, my friend, need only to sit back in a chair and think.” Mon ami, once again I failed to pick out the murderer, putting my record at one successful and five unsuccessful ascertains. Oh well, so who got murdered?

Hercule gets a letter dated April 17th on June 28th from Emily Arundell from the country town of Market Basing in England. It’s odd that it took so long to get to London. It’s a very hazy letter with many underlined and triple underlined words. She ask about his fees but doesn’t tell Hercule exactly what she wants. It seems that she had an accidental fall down a flight of stairs but now suspects that one of her relatives visiting during the Easter holiday might have tried to murder her. The reason? She is a sickly and wealthy old woman with two nieces and one nephew who are eager for their inheritance. They need money now. Hercule and his friend, Captain Hastings, decide to drive down to Market Basing in Hasting’s second hand Austin. When they arrive, they find that Emily has recently died and the house is for sale. They also learn that everyone involved says “Bob”, the wire-haired Terrier, left his ball on the top of the stairs and Emily tripped over it causing her to fall down the stairs. But that fall didn’t kill her...only left her bruised. So how did she pass away? Was it a natural death or murder? Let’s meet the suspects.

When the will was read, Emily’s house companion, Wilhelmina Lawson, got the estate and most of the cash. The maid and cook got small cash rewards. Miss Lawson was flabbergasted...or is she a good actor? Emily’s nephew, Charles, who has previously been in trouble with the law, desperately needed cash. Did he kill Emily, not knowing that Emily (just before her death) changed the will...leaving all the relatives out? Emily’s niece,Theresa, wanted money to fund her fiance doctor’s research project. Did they kill Emily? The second niece, Bella Tanios wanted out of her marriage with a Greek doctor. She needed money to live in the style she desired with her two children. Or did Bob, the dog, leave the ball on the stairs on purpose? Did he have an alibi? (just kidding, but he really did have one). Captain Hastings isn’t sure Emily was murdered. Hercule asks him, “It does not intrigue you at all to know who attempted to kill her?” Hercule goes to the grave site and discovers that Emily died on May 1st 1936.

Poirot stood looking for some time. He murmured softly: “May 1st...May 1st...and today, June 28th, I receive her letter. You see, do you not, Hastings, that that fact has got to be explained?” And explained it will be. One of the reasons I love reading the old classics is the nostalgia that you learn from the period. This novel was published in 1937 and exhibits some of the prejudices of that era. On page 183, Agatha headlines the chapter, A nigger in the woodpile. Wow, even in England? Wikipedia defines the term as, “A nigger in the woodpile is a dated American figure of speech meaning, some fact of considerable importance that is not disclosed-something suspicious or wrong.” It can also mean: When a caucasian has some negroid ancestory there is said to have been a nigg** in the woodpile, usually said if the caucasian has some negroid traits like kinky hair. Anyway, enough of the history lesson. I loved the novel.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: This was the novel that I read on the return trip from my recent visit to Hawaii. If anybody is interested, the following are the five previous reviews that I have done on Hercule Poirot novels: Murder on the Orient Express (see my review of 3/12/2012), Death on the Nile (see my review of 4/7/2012), Five little Pigs (see my review of 7/5/2012), Death in the Clouds (see my review of 10/16/2012) and One, Two, Buckle my Shoe (see my review of 5/16/2013).         

Saturday, April 15, 2017


John O’hara’s 1934 debut novel was written in the style of the American expatriate writers living in Paris during the 1920s, but it didn’t inspire me to crave anymore of his novels. Okay, I know he later wrote best sellers, Pal Joey and BUtterfield 8, which became popular movies, but I don’t have a warm and fuzzy fondness for this novel. I guess I’m still a descriptive writer fan and the only one left at that time was F. Scott Fitzgerald. O’Hara’s novel had the Ernest Hemmingway style of long narrative paragraphs sans any wasted descriptions. It’s a style that is somewhat carried on till this day, although slightly modified with a sprinkling of descriptive writing. It’s a ho-hum tale drawing together a Gibbsville (fictional town) Pennsylvania Cadillac dealer and his wife, a Cadillac salesman and his wife, a local wiseguy along with his entourage consisting of his girlfriend and his lackey. Sound exciting? All the action takes place during three days of the Christmas holiday mostly at the Gibbsville Country Club, a local restaurant/hotel or in the bedrooms. This is coal country excitement at its best. I did enjoy reminiscing the highball. When I was a youngster in the 1950s, I remember my dad serving highballs to guest during the Christmas holidays. At that time it was whiskey and ginger ale. Since then there are many variations of the highball. Anyway, can you build a story around throwing a drink in somebody’s face? Well, this novel kinda does.

On page one, “Our story opens in the mind of Luther L. (L for Leroy) Fliegler, who is lying in his bed, not thinking of anything, but just aware of sounds, conscious of his own breathing, and sensitive to his own heartbeats. Lying beside him is his wife, lying on her right side and enjoying her sleep.” Can the novel open with a sex scene between a Cadillac salesman and his wife? Yes indeed! “...and then turned and put his hands around his wife’s waist and caressed the little rubber tire of flesh across her diaphragm. She began to stir and then she opened her eyes and said, My God, Lute, what are you doing?” “Merry Christmas,” he said. And that’s the last the reader hears from the Flieglers for awhile because the scene switches to his boss and his wife at the Lantenengo Country Club. Luther says that he will not join the club till he can afford it. Meanwhile his boss, Julian English, and his wife, Caroline, are at the Lantenengo Country Club’s Christmas party. As usual, Julian is soused. How can that be...isn’t it Prohibition? Yes, but the coal town has a wiseguy, Ed Charney, who is supplying the club and the Stagecoach restaurant with all the booze they need. Ed owns the Stagecoach and has his bimbo girlfriend, Helene, singing at the hotel’s cocktail lounge. At the Lantenengo Country club, the drunken Julian visualizes throwing a drink into the face of the richest man in town, Harry Reilly, as Harry holds court telling one of his jokes.

The character Julian English appeared strange to me because he seemed to have his life made, yet he kept putting himself in difficult situations for no apparent reason. Okay, he probably was an alcoholic, but had a very desirable wife, a country club membership, and owned a Cadillac dealership. His strange behavior is never revealed in this novel. Why did Julian fantasize throwing a drink into the face of Harry Reilly? “The liquid, Julian reflected, would trickle down inside the waistcoat and down, down into Reilly’s trousers, so that even if the ice did not hurt his eye, the spots on his fly would be so embarrassing he would leave. And there was one thing Reilly could not stand; he could not stand being embarrassed." The narrator of the novel never describes the actual incident, but the reader learns of the deed by heresay. “The band was playing Something To Remember You By. The stag line was scattered over the floor by the time the band was working on the second chorus of the tune, and when Johnny Dibble suddenly appeared, breathless”..."Jeez, he said. Jeezozz H. Kee-rist. You hear about what just happened?” “No. No,” they said. “You didn’t? About Julian English?” “No. No. What was it?” “Julian English. He just threw a highball in Harry Reilly’s face. Jeest!”  Okay, that part was pretty funny. All of this happened in the first fifteen pages. This was the start of Julian English’s downfall.

I know John O’Hara went on to become a great American writer...I just wasn’t partial to this novel. Did I hate It? Absolutely not! Sometimes it’s the luck of the draw. You want to read a novel from a classic writer and you just pick the wrong one. The one you would not like. Anyway, I will continue my quest to read all the so-called great authors. I give this novel an “okay” rating.

RATING: 3 out of 5 stars

Comment: I think that it’s interesting that John O’Hara got the idea for the title of his novel from W. Somerset Maugham’s retelling of an old Mesopotamian tale. The British writer known for his 1934 novel, Of Human Bondage, was supposedly the highest paid author during the 1930s. His retelling appears as an epigraph in John O’Hara’s novel.

                                          DEATH SPEAKS:
There was a merchant in Baghdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was in the market-place I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture; now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me. The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went. Then the merchant went down to the market-place and he saw me standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning? That was not a threatening gesture, I said, it was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.

Was that precious, or what? I love literature!

Thursday, April 6, 2017


The author sent me a copy of his novel to review:

This is a really good sci-fi novel...kudos to the author, Kenneth O. Wick. He did a great job joining two major simultaneous problems on Earth into one story. And these are big problems. How about an alien coming down to Earth and telling the POTUS (President of the United States) that the earth is dying and he wants to evacuate several hundred thousand individuals (ten years is the maximum age) to an Earth-like planet. At the same time, the biggest USA oil company and a general in the Air Force want the POTUS to surrender the country over to them. Wouldn’t the POTUS want to blow her brains out? No way, not the first black female President of the United States! Do you see how this story can get addicting? Before I tell you a little bit of the story, I have to say that early on in the novel I was getting confused by all the players in the story. But, by the grace of God, or the author’s ingenuity, there was a list of good guys and bad guys at the book’s end. Luckily, I found that list early on, or this review might have taken on a different face. I also thought that there was too much going on (a very busy story) besides the above mentioned two major problems. Would the nine nuclear capable countries trade bombs so soon after the oil wells hardened? Would any USA general use North Korea (of all countries) to drop nuclear bombs for them? I don’t think so...even if you were trying to overthrow The White House. Anyway, those are my minor kvetches (I had to look hard to find fault) against an otherwise marvelous effort from a excellent storyteller.

The pumping units on the oil fields of ProMax Oil, owned by Colin and Dick Baines, blowup in North Dakota. It seems that the oil in the ground has solidified. Dr. Jessica Mayers (PHD in geophysics), reared by her Uncle Nathan Bishop and the Baines boys after her father was killed in an accident at ProMax, is stunned by what took place. Nathan, the production supervisor, says, “I’ve talked to some other lease operators, they all say the same thing. The oil can’t be pumped. It’s as if something is seizing the pump rods downhole like the oil turned to concrete.” They later find out that it happened all over the world. Meanwhile the reader learns that the oil was solidified on purpose from the first sentient species born after the creation of the universe. They are the Lumiens from the Green Planet circling a star located at the edge of the Great Rift boundary within the Milky Way galaxy. Was this a hostile event? No, according to the Lumien Master Galaxy Steward, Cyrhion. Earth was only four and a half billion years old and dying. Cyrhion knew the reason was that it was the first planet to alter the environmental balance. Cyrhion thought, “Core death is imminent...They are killing their planet.” The Lumien’s Commander Koden was on the Earth’s surface and with his Knights stopped the oil from flowing. Since the only usable oil is whatever’s in the barrels and the oil tankers, the world starts to panic. They know nothing of the aliens at this point. Every country is pointing the finger at each other. What country is making a play for world dominance by controlling the oil supply? Will the nine nations that have nuclear weapons start threatening each other?

In the Oval office, President Elizabeth Hunter asks her Vice President, Joint Chiefs of staff, heads of the NSA and CIA, and some Cabinet Secretaries, “Can someone please explain to me why crude oil can’t be pumped out of the ground?” No one knows. The President says, “Gentlemen, if something doesn’t change soon, anarchy will come marching when the first gas station runs dry.” General Abramson (Air force) was the one person in the room that didn’t say a word. He just stared at the President. President Hunter ask him, “General Abramson, how will this situation affect our Air Force capabilities?” “Ma’am, the Air Force is ready for all emergencies. This grave challenge shall be met and overcome with the might of the Air Force marching ever onward to a glorious victory over evil.” The President and her close advisors have suspected for some time now that he has become involved with some obscure religious sect. When the President asks the General what evil is he talking about, he says, “This is the work of Satan, Madam President. We’re being tested. However, the great Commander of us all shall lead us to victory.” One of the President’s top advisors, Colonel Raymond Tohler, directed a top-secret surveillance operation monitoring an active terrorist faction within the United States Air Force, known as the Dominionists. The majority of Air Force personnel were presumed to be backing the Dominionist leaders. Was General Abramson the leader? If not, who was?

“An large object appeared, hovering twenty feet above the White House South Lawn.” The secret service tried to get the President into the war room bunker. She refused and stepped outside to greet the aliens. In her mind a distant thought creeped in, I am here in peace, for Earth. “A tall, slender being stepped through the hatch, and descended the steps to the White House lawn.” “President Hunter, my name is Cyrhion,” he said in perfect English. “I am the Lumien Master Steward of this galaxy.” He asked her if they could talk over important matters in her Oval office. In the Oval office, surrounded by her National Security team, she was speechless. Her Secretary of Energy, Maxwell Vetters, asked the alien, “Why are you here? What do you mean by steward of this galaxy?” “Mature galaxies, which have nurtured the growth of many life forms, are protected by Lumiens. The embryonic and infant galaxies, after evolving, are given a Lumien steward at what we call first life spark.” Secretary Vetter, trying to grasp the inconceivable enormity of the concept, tried to form words. "I am here because Earth is dying,” Cyrhion said. After a long pause, the room erupted in a chorus of incoherent voices. The President held up her hand. “What do you mean, dying?” she said. Can this man write, or what. This review seems real long, doesn’t it? Well, believe it or not, I’m only up to page 43 of a 407 page novel. I told you in the first paragraph that this was a very busy story...I wasn’t kidding!

I’ll finish my short review (Haha) with Cyrhion’s response to the President’s question on page 43. “Earth’s temperatures are soaring out of control. Her bio systems are shutting down and soon will be unable to evolve in time to correct the imbalances. She will continue the struggle for survival, but when her interior temperatures exceed the critical stage, our data forecasts thirty-five to fifty years from now, the planet will begin expanding at an accelerated rate. The crust and mantle will develop fracture openings along all existing fault structures, and the interior magma will erupt through these fractures, shrinking her atmosphere to a mere veil. Her interior heat will escape to space, the core will freeze and Earth will die.” Wow! Numbing silence passed through the Oval office, except from the suspected mutinous leader of the Dominionist, General Abramson. He said, “What a load of malarkey, God created this planet and all the heavens around us. This planet is a gift to all mankind, to do with as we please, and if there is any need for planet saving to be done, the Lord Almighty shall come forth and replenish his Earth, with goodness and bounty for all his children.” “Hallelujah,” Jeb Henley, the Director of the CIA, said. Is the Director the mole in the White House for the Dominionist? Cyrhion said, “Your God did not create this planet, General, and cannot save it...only I can.”

So my 44 page review comes to an end. I will leave you with the following questions in order to whet your appetite further (if needed). Do the world powers start nuking each other as the oil dries up? Are the Baines brother’s making a play for world dominance? Do the Dominionist mutineers have a thermonuclear bomb? Are they targeting a USA city? Can the Lumiens save the Earth? Or will the nine nuclear capable nations blow up Earth? This is an exciting novel that has to be read to appreciate the creative genius of Kenneth O. Wick. By the way, I thank the author for not getting too technical, that's a beef I have with some authors. The sequel to this novel, Progeny’s Journey, is due out in the fall of 2017.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: The author wrote such an original novel that it’s hard to compare his work with the work of another writer. The rationale is that most sci-fi invasion novels of Earth are for hostile takeovers. In Progeny’s Promise, the aliens were here to help us save Earth. But I can think of only one story were the invasion is peaceful. It’s the 1951 black and white movie, The Day the Earth Stood Still starring Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal and Sam Jaffe. The film was adapted from Harry Bates’ 1940 short story, Farewell to the Master. Do you remember Michael Rennie as Klaatu and his eight foot tall robot, Gort? Do you remember how it ended?

Klaatu emerges from the saucer and addresses Barnhardt’s assembled scientists, informing them that he represents an interplanetary organization that created a police force of invincible robots like Gort to “patrol the planets in spaceships like this one, and preserve the peace” by automatically annihilating aggressors. In matters of aggression, we have given them absolute power over us. This power cannot be revoked. Klaatu concludes with, “It is no concern of ours how you run your planet, but if you threaten to extend your violence, this Earth of yours will be reduced to a burned-out cinder. Your choice is simple: join us, and live in peace, or pursue your present course and face obliteration.” Klaatu and Gort depart in the spaceship (this synopsis was courtesy of Wikipedia).     

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Tannenbaum Tailors and the Brethren of the Saints (volume 2)

The author sent my thirteen year old grandson, Kai, an autographed copy of his novel to review:

The second novel of the Tannenbaum Tailors series offers a new perspective. This story picks up right where the first one left off. Christmas passes without any more trouble from the Spiritless. Jack gets a toy bullet train for Christmas. The tiny tailors decide to take a ride on the train, but Tonto misfires his grappling hook called a glimmer lift and smashes into the side of the train. He finds that he can’t reel in the hook.

Steve grapples in to save him, but just as Tonto gets reeled into the train, bugs (the size of small dogs to the tailors) blast out of the luggage compartments. When Brendan goes in to check out the bullet train to find the source of the bugs, there is a big flash, and Brendan disappears right before the eyes of the other elves. Soon after the flash, the elves find the source of the bugs. There is a termite hole that goes through a tree and deep under the house. Because Irene is the smallest tailor, she is sent in to kill the termites at the nest. Here is where the story takes a turn for the worst.
It’s probably worth mentioning that there is a second act to this book where one of Brendan’s crewmates betrays him and tells the police about how he told Jack (from the previous novel) about the tailors. Overall the storytelling was good, and I especially liked the author’s character development. But the one thing I didn’t like was in the first part of the book. There were no contractions in the dialogue. For example, they never say “I’m”, it’s always written out as “I am.” This doesn’t sound like a problem, but it makes the dialogue seem unnatural, however later on in the story this improves.
To conclude, the second novel was a huge improvement over the first. I would recommend this novel to YA readers in the 12-18 age group.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: Kai made an excellent point about the lack of contractions in the first part of the story. People in normal conversation use contractions; such as, “don’t”, “can’t” or “couldn’t”. In usual conversation you wouldn’t say, “do not”, “can not”, or “could not”...would you? says, “When writing dialogue in a novel or play, contractions help reflect how a character actually speaks.” As Arte Johnson (playing a German soldier) always said on the TV series Laugh-In, “verrrrry interesting.”